Former Washington Wizards forward Antawn Jamison stood next to First Lady Michelle Obama as they fitted fake rocks onto a rock-climbing wall in a playground they were helping to build at Imagine Southeast Public Charter School. “Finally someone my height,” the approximately six-foot Obama joked.
She and Jamison were with 500 volunteers from corporations, the neighborhood and the school who recently spent one day completing the Imagine project. It was the 2,000th playground constructed by KaBOOM! The D.C.-based nonprofit has had great success during its 15-year history attracting and retaining corporate sponsors and volunteers, experts say, by offering them the kind of get-your-hands-dirty project that gives them a sense of accomplishment.
KaBOOM! “has everything that a corporation wants in a nonprofit,” said Jilla Tombar, corporate and foundation giving manager at the Center for Nonprofit Advancement. “It’s a tangible, one-time project that’s visible, has a beginning and an end, it’s for kids . . . and involves team-building.”
Imagine offers a unique program that instructs 500 boys and girls in single-gender classrooms.
Chief executives such as Dennis White of MetLife and Ed Fitzpatrick of Motorola were at the school with sleeves rolled up, mixing cement and building ditches. Others constructed a slide or laid mulch. At the end of the day Tina Barry, Dr Pepper Snapple Group’s executive vice president of corporate affairs, captured a shot of the finished product on her camera. She had traveled from her office in Plano, Tex., to help with the project.
KaBOOM! has attracted local partners such as the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, Fannie Mae and the Washington Capitals.
Dr Pepper Snapple Group has recently entered a three-year, $15 million partnership with the nonprofit to build or improve another 2,000 playgrounds.
“We asked ourselves what could we do with our corporate philanthropy that would also allow us to be a part of the solution of childhood obesity,” said Barry. “We can start [by] ensuring that kids have a safe place to play.”